Word processing programs for people with dementia
June 13, 2018 8:51 AM   Subscribe

My older relative (a retired history professor) is mildly affected by dementia, but is still in denial about it. He's been trying to write the family history and continue to work on his research, but has been getting confused and saving over important documents, losing/throwing away USB drives, etc. What he needs is a word processing program with a versioning system that backs up everything to the cloud automatically, so we can help him restore from older versions. How can we set this up for him? This will have to be absolutely transparent to him; there's no way he's learning Git.

Also, are there any good ways of providing remote tech support that don't leave him vulnerable to hackers? Say he has trouble locating or opening a file; it would be better if he could just call us to help instead of getting frustrated. I know there are programs that allow you to "take over" somebody's computer remotely, but don't know which could be exploited.
posted by Soliloquy to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe get him to save to a Dropbox?
posted by johngoren at 9:01 AM on June 13, 2018

Doesn't Google Docs do this? Ctrl+Shift+Alt+H to access the version history. I worked with someone with severe dyslexia once who found this feature to be a lifesaver.

If you both share a Google Account, you could have access to his docs to help him restore old versions or hunt for text he's missing.
posted by missmobtown at 9:04 AM on June 13, 2018 [6 favorites]

Is Google Docs an option? You can put a bookmark link on his desktop, and then that's it - there's no need for him to ever hit save, versions are saved automatically, restoring from History is easy.
posted by brainmouse at 9:05 AM on June 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

Google Docs seems like it would work pretty well for the purpose. You're capped at 30 days / 100 revisions, but it has collaboration, autosave, and remote access built in, plus it's free. Comparison of Dropbox and Google Docs available here, along with directions for accessing revision histories in Google Drive.
posted by halation at 9:05 AM on June 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

Yes, Google Docs is what I have used in the past as a word processor for people with dementia. I would set up an individual account for him, but also share his folders with your own account. That way you can occasionally make redundant backups by making copies of his folder to your own Drive (not shared with him). Then, as needed, you can copy those back to his drive when he overwrites/deletes/just can't find a file.

It's great that you are trying to preserve this activity for him and help him maintain independence as much as possible.
posted by assenav at 9:11 AM on June 13, 2018 [5 favorites]

Standard Notes is easy to use - the paid option gives you versioning, ability to backup to dropbox/email automatically and a nice WYSIWYG editor.

Can be used as a web app or has installable apps. The installable apps are nice and simple also (available for windows, linux, mac, ios and android).
posted by chr at 11:58 AM on June 13, 2018

Evernote has a history function with their paid service. Stores everything in the cloud. You could even have the exact account on your own computer to monitor everything.
posted by cda at 12:39 PM on June 13, 2018

Response by poster: Bad news; he's rejected Google Docs on the grounds that he doesn't want to learn something new. ("Doesn't want to" may very well mean "can't" at this point.) I'm going to try showing him some videos so he can see how it works, but he wants to stick to WordPerfect. Trying to figure out if there's any sort of macro that will handle this for him.
posted by Soliloquy at 8:35 AM on June 14, 2018

Here is a job aid for enabling auto-save in WordPerfect. Not sure if this still works with current versions, but the site was last updated in 2018 so seems worth a shot to me.
posted by assenav at 12:07 PM on June 14, 2018

Computers and consumer electronics are the worst when it comes to helping people with dementia. One thing that might help is a wifi camera that you can control, if he runs into a problem he can call you and you can see the problem. My mother no longer knows how to turn on the computer but going off of memory to get her out of some screen she didn't understand while being accused of messing up her computer would have been a lot easier if I could have just seen what she was talking about.

You have my sympathy.
posted by Pembquist at 1:38 PM on June 14, 2018

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